Parkinson’s disease can affect people’s sense of smell and taste, reduce their appetite and make it difficult to chew or swallow. In addition, patients can experience symptoms of constipation and changes in their weight and certain medications are best taken on an empty stomach, while others are better taken after a light snack. All of this means that the relationship between someone with Parkinson’s and food can get complicated but help is at hand! By discussing these aspects of your life with your neurologist, they will be able to suggest the right physiotherapist or even a nutritionist to help you.
While no specific diet is recommended for people with Parkinson’s disease, eating a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet is encouraged, and patients are advised to cut down on sugar, salt and processed foods (as indeed is the rest of the population!)
Association Parkinson recommends that patients “should be particularly careful about (their) water and salt intake. The risk of dehydration is probably slightly increased in these patients.” The charity also states that while alcohol is not contraindicated, it may, of course, aggravate existing balance issues and that excessive consumption of coffee can aggravate tremors.
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers these suggestions for optimising medications, bone strength, bowel movements and maintaining good weight, general health and fitness:
- Drink enough water (six glasses a day is recommended)
- Eat fiber-rich foods, including brown rice, whole grains (breads with three grams or more of dietary fiber per slice), fruit and beans to ease digestive difficulties and constipation.
- Take your medications with a full glass of water. It may help your body break down the medication more efficiently.
- Limit sugar intake, alcohol and caffeine particularly before bed, as they may interrupt sleep.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you should increase your Vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is found in fortified milk and milk products, egg yolks and fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon, and helps maintain bone health.
- Snack on small quantities of walnuts, cashews and other nuts to promote brain health.
- Eat berries, which contain beneficial antioxidants
- Include foods known for their anti-inflammatory effect in the brain, like salmon, tuna and dark, leafy green vegetables.
- Dutch: Vlaamse Parkinson Liga provides a link to useful information about diet, vitamins, the interaction between certain medications (Levodopa) and food and a selection of recipes. https://www.parkiskookatelier.be/
- English: The Michael J. Fox Foundation offers a dietary guide you can download. https://www.michaeljfox.org/sites/default/files/media/document/Diet_Guide_Update_7.1.21.pdf
This article draws upon guidance and suggestions provided by Parkinson’s organisations in Belgium, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France. It aims to provide an overarching view of available advice but can not possibly be comprehensive. We encourage you to visit the websites of your local or regional organisations as these may have specific information suited to your particular needs.